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In the Lab

On February 6th 2012, LA Business Journal reporter James Rufus Koren visited OriginOil’s lab. These photos and captions appeared in his story “OriginOil’s Green Gold”.

Used with the permission of Los Angeles Business Journal Copyright © 2012. All rights reserved.


While we are focused on Single Step Extraction™, the OriginOil research team has made numerous other innovations. Here’s a look at some promising ones still in lab stage.

Algae Screen With Live Extraction

Algae Screen

Because of shared technology, algae growers can now operate two continuous processes in one integrated system that defends algae from microscopic invaders, while ‘milking’ the algae of its beneficial oil.

Before and after Algae Screen. Click to enlarge
Before and after Algae Screen™.
(Click to enlarge)

Enhancing Algae Growth by Reducing Competing MicroorganismsPatent-pending Algae Screen™ keeps algae healthy and productive by selectively eliminating microscopic predators without the use of chemicals. The technology employs a highly-tuned electromagnetic pulse that is designed to target rotifers, bacteria and ciliates. These predators reduce the yield of algae crops by consuming valuable oil and biomass.

All algae are targets for invasion, especially those that are oil-rich. Contamination occurs in virtually all growth systems, and is particularly problematic in open-pond environments. Addressing this challenge is a major hurdle to commercial-scale production.

Algae Screen operates without disruption of the growth cycle and is fully integrated with Live Extraction, with which it shares common underlying technology.


Live Extraction

Efficient and Continuous Extraction

The patent-pending Live Extraction™ process enables OriginOil to extract algae oil on a continuous basis without cell sacrifice. The process can be operated in parallel with Single-Step Extraction. Live Extraction, sometimes referred to as “milking”, is inherently efficient because it achieves continuous algae oil production without destroying the algae cell. Therefore a single algae cell can produce more oil during its lifetime using lower amounts of energy.


Harvesting lipids in the Live Extraction process.Harvesting lipids in the Live Extraction process.
(Click to enlarge)

Inexpensive and Versatile

Unlike other approaches to live extraction, OriginOil’s process does not employ expensive consumables such as reverse osmosis membranes; furthermore, it is not limited to vulnerable oil-bearing algae strains, such as Botryococcus braunii, that are known to excrete algae oil naturally.


Avoiding Permanent Damage

Algae typically protect their oil behind a tough cell wall. The challenge of live extraction is to harvest the oil without causing permanent damage to the cell. Live Extraction works by stimulating the algae cells through specific electrical modulations. OriginOil has succeeded in maintaining healthy algae cultures while continuously harvesting oil from them.

At any time in the continuous process, only some algae cells are ready for extraction. The process harvests these cells while the ‘unripe’ cells continue to grow. The harvested cells will eventually regenerate oils for another harvest.


More Benefits

Live Extraction yield higher quality oil than conventional extraction methods. Single-Step Extraction should still be employed for maximum productivity and to refresh the algae population.

Live Extraction is especially beneficial when used with algae that have been genetically engineered for faster growth rate or higher lipid yields. With Live Extraction, OriginOil provides a technology platform for companies that are working to improve algae stains for greater productivity.


Hydrogen Harvester

Generating Hydrogen through Photosynthesis

The Hydrogen Harvester™ employs a potentially game-changing process. It is a continuous, passive extraction system for removing hydrogen gas from algae. The process uses viable, high growth, high oil content algae strains in a photosynthetic technology platform.

Its value is in recovering more energy from algae production systems than simply oil and biomass. Hydrogen is essential to the refining process, thus enabling algae producers to refine algae right at the point of production, a major benefit.

In contrast to previously reported developments in the area, the new Hydrogen Harvester uses little to no external energy inputs, requires no sulfur deprivation or other “stressing” of the algae, and no genetic modification.

Hydrogen Harvester

The Hydrogen Harvester™ uses photosynthetic algae to generate hydrogen, without interfering with the normal extraction of algae for lipids and biomass. Click to enlarge.

The Benefits of Hydrogen

The co-generation of hydrogen at algae production facilities is a critical development for the realization of a completely integrated algal biorefinery.

Refining algae into “drop-in” fuels compatible with existing infrastructure, such as renewable diesel and jet fuel, typically requires hydrogen for the hydrotreating process. Hydrogen Harvester technology can eliminate the need for hydrogen pipelines, and dependence on existing refineries that are typically far removed from locations that are best for algae growth.

Recovering hydrogen also provides the necessary ingredients for electricity generation using fuel cells. The energy can be used to offset the electricity requirements of algae cultivation, harvesting and downstream processing.


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